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NASA said late Monday that the International Space Station has fired its thrusters to maneuver away from an incoming Russian spacecraft.
In a press release, the space agency said the International Space Station conducted a five-minute, five-second burn to avoid shrapnel from Russia’s Kosmos 1408 satellite, which the country destroyed in a weapons test in November last year.
NASA officials earlier warned of the dangers of spreading debris into space, caused by the massive increase in the number of satellites in orbit and the many cases of Governments deliberately destroy satellites and create new columns of scrap.
The space agency said the space station performed a “Predetermined Debris Avoidance Maneuver,” or PDAM, to give the ISS “an additional measure of distance away from the projected trajectory of a portion of Russian Cosmos 1408’s debris.”
“The missile launch occurred at 8:25 p.m. EDT and the maneuver had no effect on the station’s operations. Without the maneuver, the piece would have been expected to have passed about three miles from the station.”
The burning raised the space station’s altitude by 2/10 miles, according to the space agency.
On November 15, 2021, Cosmos 1408, a no longer functioning satellite, was destroyed, creating a cloud of debris including about 1,500 pieces of trackable space debris.
The US Space Command said Russia tested a direct-association anti-satellite missile, or DA-ASAT, and strongly condemned the anti-satellite test, calling it a “reckless and dangerous act” and saying it “will not tolerate” behavior that puts international interests at risk.
The International Space Station had to perform a similar maneuver in June to avoid debris from the anti-satellite test. In January, a piece of debris generated by this test came within close proximity to a Chinese satellite, in an encounter the Chinese government described as “extremely dangerous”.
According to NASA, the International Space Station has to change its orbit to avoid space junk once a year, and move away from the body if the chance of collision exceeds one in 10,000.
Invisible in the night sky, there are hundreds of millions of debris bodies orbiting our planet. This debris consists of fragments of old satellites as well as entire satellites and rocket objects.
According to a 2021 report from NASA, at least 26,000 pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth are the size of a softball or larger—large enough to smash into a satellite; Over 500,000 marble-sized pieces of debris – capable of damaging spacecraft; While “more than 100 million pieces the size of a grain of salt can puncture a space suit.”
When these fragments collide with each other, they can create even more small pieces of orbital debris.
Russia said earlier this year that it plans to withdraw from the International Space Station and end its decades-old partnership with NASA on the orbital site, which is due to retire by 2031.
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